Photo of Grand River Raymond taken by Gary Gardeli.
Photographs of Sonny Elhew English Pointer taken by Ken McGraw.
Over the last forty years I have been blessed to breed and own multiple generations of Grand River Black Labs and Elhew English Pointers. Due to my consistency of selective breeding, my pups have all the qualities that make a well-rounded dog. Temperament, trainability, intelligence, sound conformation and desire to please are traits that all gun dog breeders should all be looking for when breeding dogs.
Years ago bird dog trainers believed they should leave the dogs in the kennel for the first year of their lives. In my opinion, that is a waste of the best part of the puppies' early development. At Kiowa Creek Kennels I pride myself in this early development stage, by putting a positive foundation into these young bird dogs lives. In the first ten months of their lives, I nurture their development through love, positive association, and most importantly pouring the birds to them which in turn builds a bond that will last forever.
About four decades ago I was training and running well-bred English Setters in field trails in Ohio and Michigan, when I met an old time field trail man that told me if I wanted a fine gun dog and trial dog that I should expose my dogs to as many birds as possible. Well I took that advice to heart, which makes the hunting dog training so much fun.
My dogs and my client's dogs get early exposure to birds, my labs and pointers are introduced to birds at five to ten weeks old. By the time they are four to five months of age they are rocking and rolling with lots of desire for the birds. I let the pointer puppies point the birds, chase them and do what they want during this time to build confidence and desire, structure can come later. The same goes for my lab puppies, some point, some flush, it doesn't matter to me as long as the pups have a huge smile on their face. This early bird exposure teaches the pups when they are with me they are going to find birds.
I am lucky to have about seven hundred acres to run my dogs on. I have a call back pen with Bob White Quail. I take the pups to the birds, let a couple out and watch where they fly, then get the pups out to hunt them. This way you never have to touch the birds or handle them in any way, it's a lot like the real thing. During this time I am influencing these pups to the birds. When I think they are going to hit the scent cone I tell the pups, "Look in there." The pointer pups usually slam into point and the lab pups dive in and flush the birds. This method of early exposure teaches the pups that I am the man, because I know where all the birds are. I am the leader of the pack, but it's a team effort and begins to create harmony at an early age. I am teaching these young minds that being on my team is fun, with no pressure. If the pointer puppies point the birds there is no E-collar, check cord or bells and whistles, I may give them a soft whoop with my voice, but generally I just keep my mouth shut and let these pups stand on point as long as they want to. When the labs bust a bird I let them chase, and eventually they figure out they can't catch them. Fun, Fun, Fun!!!
No pressure in this early development stage, means your pup will love and respect you as a true leader. There is no better way to achieve that great bond, let them develop in a natural way and the structure can come later. Over the years I have raised my Grand River labs and Elhew English pointers in this fashion. Sonny my orange and white Elhew pointer, had no yard work his entire life. When he was a pup he would come to me when called because he "wanted to." That's the key my friends, put the "want to" into them when they are babies and you will never have to worry about it again. Sonny would point birds until the sun went down, he would honor point, and would retrieve to hand all because of the way I developed him as a puppy. I was his best friend.
So please when you buy your pups for hunting, remember the key to a good gun dog is birds, birds, birds. They are the magic!!! We do have a couples litters of gun dogs for sale every year, please contact us for more information.